This Week I Love …

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… the street wear produced by athletic clothing companies. Kind of a mouthful, but hear me out.

I’m thinking mainly of Athleta, Horny Toad, and Title Nine. Lululemon and Lucy have some cute street wear options, but definitely focus more on workout gear. The first three, however, have nearly as many non-workout options as gym-only duds, and they’re fabulous for so many reasons:

They are durable.

These clothes are made for women leading active lifestyles, so the fabrics and stitching are designed to take some serious wear and tear. As someone who can rip and snag with the best of ’em, I appreciate truly durable clothes.

They are washable.

Nothing dry cleanable here, friends! Fabrics are selected for washability and ease of care. With the exception of a few linen pieces, most stuff is wrinkle-free and ideal for packing and travel, too.

They are comfortable.

Although these are street wear garments, they are aimed at a very active consumer base. So no itchy fibers, constricting waistbands, or digging seams. Fabrics are typically soft and breathable.

They make the concept of wearing a dress less stressful.

I mean, if you hate dresses, forget it. But if you’re an active mom, do lots of outdoor work, or have a lifestyle that makes delicate, frilly dresses impractical, you may have written off the entire garment category. But these dresses – especially the Title Nine ones like their classic Tomboy Dress – are durable, washable, and comfortable! They are MEANT to get dirty and messy, then thrown in the wash.

They are NOT cheap, but they are well made.

My Athleta dresses have been washed and worn dozens of times and they are still kicking. My Horny Toad dress has been wadded up in suitcases, scrubbed for stains, and worn through weather both hot and cold. I’ve only ever handled and tried on Title Nine duds, but in person they feel and look amazing and beautifully constructed. You won’t find anything at Target bargain prices, but this stuff won’t fall apart after two seasons of wear.

I have had clients who have many young children at home, clients who work in dirty stockrooms and don’t want to ruin their good duds, clients who need to go from classroom to field in a heartbeat. And I’ve pointed them ALL to these three brands for dresses, tops, skirts, and pants. Anyone who worries about being hard on her clothes might find a few great items at any of these retailers.

Are you a fan of the street wear produced by athletic clothing companies? Ever poked around AthletaHorny Toad, or Title Nine?

Image courtesy Athleta.

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45 Responses to “This Week I Love …”

  1. Dianne

    Big fan of the companies you mentioned but I have some minor quibbles. Athleta and Lululemon tend to offer only semi fitted silhouettes and as a full busted women this is not always what I want. Ive had to return a few things I’ve loved in the catalogs because Ive felt too “on display”. Other than that, I agree whole heartedly.

  2. Cynthia

    I go back and forth on Athleta. I have a couple of useful things from them, including a couple of burnout-overlay knit dresses that have been very durable, but I also feel like sizing consistency has gone downhill since Gap bought them. And I hate that they make a lot of their pants with snaps instead of buttons, because if I buy the pants to fit me and then I do something active like, say, squat down or pick something up, I always pop the damn snap. Every time. If I get a pair of pants from them and I see the snap, back they go. I get all my bras from Title Nine. They know how to pick good bras.

  3. Jennifer

    I bought a Horny Toad dress recently on your recommendation and have been love-love-loving it ever since. Most comfortable thing I have in my closet. It really does well on travel, as well. No wrinkles after a day in the suitcase; just shake it out and put it on.

  4. Chalkdust and Boots

    The Athleta came to me the over day and I pored over it drooling for AGES. Don’t know if I need anything new for the summer, but if I do, I think it’ll be the first place I look. As a non-devotee of folding while packing AND the mother of an active toddler, I think these kind of clothes would be right up my alley!

  5. Jenni

    If I could dress only in these clothes, plus my beloved jeans, I would never worry about what to wear again.. Need a bump in paycheck though.

  6. Stephanie

    I’m a bit Athleta fan. I have several of there dresses and am a stalker of their sale page. We also live close to an actual store so that works as well. They are also very good about returns. you just fill out a little form and send things back for free. Just save your packaging tap it shut put on the new label and drop it at a ups store.

  7. T.

    Merrell has some really cute dresses that work better for my body than Athleta and Title 9.

  8. Alison

    I find many of these brands don’t fit my petite curvy self. As Dianne mentioned above, they don’t really cater to women with large busts, or really any curves (hips, rear). Even dresses that are supposed to be a fit and flare style I find to be way more fitted than similar dresses from non-athletic brands. However they are great for travel and casual wear!

  9. Nina

    One thing I really like about Athleta and Title Nine clothes is that they are available in very small sizes. At the moment (because of illness), I am a mighty 97 pounds at 5′ 4″. And these companies actually stock sizes that are too small for me! I know—what a strange thing to be pleased about! But most of the time, I am swimming in the smallest size available from other manufacturers (I am well beyond the age at which I can find appropriate clothes in a teen department), and so it’s a thrill to choose clothes based on how well I like them, and not on simply whether they come in my size.

  10. dee

    Honestly, I have not seen most of these catalogs, but I have heard of these companies and seen some of their stores. I am a plus size (16-18). Do any of these companies make clothes in my size? I would like some nice work out clothes as I am making an effort to get more exercise (and lose weight), but not sure where to find decent workout clothes. Any suggestions?

  11. D

    I am also a huge lover of street wear made by athletic companies. I’m wearing an Athleta sweater as I type this. Certainly not cheap, but my dresses have really lasted me, and they are so comfortable! I’ve been through an informal roller derby practice with friends in one of my Athleta dresses, and not even a small snag.

  12. Anne

    I started wearing Altheta clothes for working out about 9 years ago. For the most part, their clothes hold up extremely well. I own 3 of the Pilayo A-line skirt. They are mainstays in my wardrobe spring through fall. I like Lucy clothes as well and they seem to go on sale more frequently.

    Interesting note: I went to Napili Bay with my Family over Easter. It is a very family friendly area on Maui. It looked like a walking ad for Athleta swim suits! I was impressed by how great they looked on a variety of bodies.

  13. A.B.

    I hopped over to Athleta. Not in my size! That’s upsetting.

  14. anotherjen

    Patagonia has some good options, too. I have a jacket and sweater of theirs that I wear the heck out of.

    You can also turn some kinds of athletic wear into street wear just by wearing it with the right pieces. I often wear my MEC (Canada’s version of REI) merino wool layering pieces like a tshirt and/or sweater. And MEC has some good street wear of their own.

  15. Kaki

    I would Lole to your list. I’ve bought some amazingly well made skirts from them that are still going strong 2, 5 and 10 years later! Horny Toad is wonderful, but Athleta’s quality can be hit or miss. (It seems to have gone downhill a bit. Was it always owned by GAP or did it get bought out?)

    My main quibble with Title 9 is that they carry bras for small busted women, but not for small BAND size women. Really, the entire athletic bra industry needs to learn that cup size is only half the battle, and usually the less important part of the battle at that! (Their street wear does tend to be excellent though!)

    • virago

      Athleta was bought out by GAP — and I think the quality has gone downhill since then (YMMV).

  16. Belle

    I love Athleta clothing. I have become a lot more active in the past year and their clothing is appeals to me. The one quibble I have is that I wish there were a few more neutrals to choose from.

    I do agree with Cynthia that the sizing is uneven or perhaps they are investing heavily into vanity sizing. I am normally a medium and ended up in an XS during my last visit.

      • A.B.

        I found their plus size options few and far between. Is it just a bad time of year for their stuff? I’ve noticed that I am liking stuff in stores a lot less this time of year overall.

        • ClaraT

          On the Athleta website, if you type “Plus” into the search box, you get all of their stuff that is available in 1X and/or 2X (229 items at this moment). This is a good way to view only items that are available in plus sizes (saves clicking on every single item).

  17. Marsha

    I find that most athletic dresses run too short for me. Maybe I should look again.

    • Katja

      No, you’re right. The dresses are generally quite short. And in the skirt selection, foldover waistband and high-low hem skirts dominate – both of these are trends I wish would just go away.

  18. Stephanie

    I LOVE the clothes from Title 9. But apparently being an active plus-size lady is not desirable. I am just a bit too large to fit into the largest size. I am a very busy and active person and the clothing appeals to me with how easy I could move in them. I often use the Title 9 catalog as a guide for choosing clothing for other places for lines, silhouettes, and even durability. I still hope for clothing like that in my own size. The few plus-size places I have found offer such a terrible range of colors that I often cannot buy anything.

    Please tell me I am not the only person who flat out cannot wear most of the colors I see in the stores? No pink, despise black, most blues are horrendous on me, and all the current crop of bright colors are just terrible. When trying something next to me at the store someone asked me if I was feeling ok.

  19. Tara

    I would add Patagonia to this list. They have great dresses – many of which I can wear bra-less. YAY!

  20. Patti @ NotDeadYet Style

    Yes! I’m a big fan of Athleta for dresses, esp on sale (agree they are not inexpensive). They have great fit and are so easy to care for. Cool knit skirts for summer, too.

  21. Andrea

    I have two tops and a linen dress from Horny Toad and I love all three pieces. Patagonia is another good option, as others have mentioned, and Prana, which uses some really fun prints in their streetwear. I also really like Blue Canoe (www.bluecanoe.com), which is a smaller company. They specialize in yoga clothes, but also make casual dresses, tops and stretchy pants. All of their fabric is organic and everything is made in the US, so their clothes can be pricey compared to others, but I think it’s worth it and they do have sale and clearance sections.

  22. torey

    So nice to see you mention my favorite type of clothes! I *live* in Title Nine clothes. Wearing a Carve Designs skirt and Patagonia shirt right now, and I’m at work. 🙂 I will supplement my wardrobe with others, but Athleta is usually not good enough quality for me (although they stock Born boots which is wonderful!), and I’d rather buy Horny Toad and Lole from Title Nine and/or REI which have much better return policies than the actual companies. (Athleta has the same wonderful policy as Title Nine and REI – any thing can be returned ever. This is gold when you have hard-to-fit feet!) Blue Canoe and Ibex are responsibly made which I really value, and they may work for some, and I wish they worked for me, but I have never found their clothes flattering – I am a size eight but short and thick, so I have to choose silhouettes carefully.

  23. Heather

    I have 2 Horny Toad dresses and 1 skirt (all purchased at REI) that I love and wear to work all the time. They have held up well to repeated washings and they travel well. I have a big complaint with Title 9: in their catalog, they do not state which of their pieces are made by another company (except for Horny Toad, I think). I’m not sure why they don’t; I would be much more likely to buy from them if I knew what brand a specific item was because I would be better able to tell what size to purchase.

  24. Lizanne

    I look for (and find) Athleta at the local resale shops and enjoy them EXCEPT I can’t find shoes for them! I don’t love the Merrill look, and due to ugly toenails I like to keep the toes covered… suggestions??

    • Sally

      Oh! Gosh, I wear mine with everything from boots to pumps, Lizanne. I don’t think you need to skew athletic with these clothes. At least not all the time. Anything simple will do. Flat Mary Janes, simple slightly chunky leather sandals, moto or cowgirl boots … whatever works best for your personal style and comfort!

  25. Monica

    Yes, I LOVE these types of clothes, espeically Athleta and Title 9. Athleta I love because they carry TALL sizes in their pants and a few tops also. I have a few of their dresses and two skorts that are pretty much bombproof – after 3 years of wearing them all the time and abusing them, they still look new. I saw one list of “what every woman’s wardrobe should contain” that suggested women find a “sweatsuit alternative” – an outfit with the ease and comfort of your favorite sweatsuit that could be thrown on a moment’s notice but was a lot more stylish. Yep, those are my Athleta dresses!

    Title9 has the best selection of beautiful merino wool sweaters and I drool over their catalog whenever I get it. I am a bra size 36AA, and their associated Bounce brand is one of the ONLY places that carries it. I also adore that they use “models” that are real athletes and active women. I actually want to buy clothes from them for this reason. I only wish they carried more items in tall.

    Also, these companies are among the few that make skorts, which are one of the best articles of clothing I can think of. I love that I can look girly without having to act girly and worry about wrecking my clothes or showing everyone my underwear. 🙂

    • Becky

      Another thing I love about skorts – I have a wide waist and a narrow ribcage, which means that although skirts are wicked flattering on me, they ride up to the bottom of my bra line if I move. Since life involves moving, it is awesome that skorts don’t ride up.

  26. Becky

    I was just thinking about this – that I have been happiest with the clothing (mostly dresses) I have from athletic-wear companies (though I am far from athletic) because they are so comfortable, durable, and wearable in diverse situations. I have some dresses from Athleta that are sweatshirt-and-jeans comfortable, that I can wear anyplace from hiking to work, and that get compliments all the time.

    Patagonia and REI are faves. Another brand I love – Ibex. Though sadly skinny-person-centric (my choices are limited because I have boobs), they are so comfortable, durable, and classic. Not cheap at all, but if you hand wash and dry flat, their stuff will last approximately forever and look even better as it acquires patina. And their merino wool does not need frequent washing.

  27. shebolt

    I love Athleta for workout clothing and have recently picked up some of their casual stuff as well. I like that it’s made for women with some muscle tone.

    I used to avoid Title 9 because the clothing was a little too baggy and masculine in cut, but they’ve really stepped up their game.

  28. Helen

    I looove Patagonia! I have 3 dressed and will buy more when I can find them on sale. I do think that their regular pricing is a bit steep for everyday simple dress. But, the quality is superb and the sizing is consistent so at 5’7 & 130lb I can always buy M.

  29. MLC

    Love Athleta dresses and skorts! I love them so much, I have gone through the expense and trouble of having them shipped out to me here in southeast Asia, where I now live. In addition to being crush-proof for travel, many of their fabrics are perfect for the tropical climate here.

  30. Nadine

    I’m in New Zealand, so had never heard any of these brands. OH MY GOD I WANT EVERY SINGLE TITLE 9 DRESS!! Wow. Oh-so-very me. I’m very active and love dresses and am built like a boy . . Now I’m filed with longing! 🙂

    • Monica

      Yes, this is actually my biggest problem with these brands – how to choose! Can’t I just order one of everything?!?! Oh wait, I don’t have that kind of cash. Dang. Then I often can’t make up my mind about what to choose and end up procrastinating until there are none left. 🙂

  31. Patience

    I love these dresses because many of them are work appropriate and comfortable. Zappo’s is my source for all these brands and my favorites are Horny Toad, Prana, and Kuhl. I just discovered Kuhl, actually and wear their sleeved, 3/4 sleeve length dress with ruched bodice and waist tie to work almost every week.

  32. ali

    I own 4 Patagonia dresses, and love all of them. (As well as oodles of other stuff – I own 3 pair of the same hemp pants!) The fabric is designed to be scrunched in your suitcase/backpack and look great when you pull it out to wear it. Looks good for work and play. Very elegant designs, excellent quality. Which they stand behind 100%. They also accept worn clothing and recycle it, as well as showing the environmental footprint of their clothing on their website.

    Unfortunately, their sizing is on the small side, not good for plus size gals. While I wear a small size, my best friend is in between regular and plus size and can never find athletic clothing that fits. Lulu, I believe, doesn’t make small sizes because they don’t want larger people wearing their clothes. :((( There is certainly a market for well made and beautiful athletic clothing in bigger sizes. I often wonder why no company has cashed in on this!

  33. MM

    After reading this, I immediately ordered two pieces from Horny Toad. They are wonderful. Thanks for the tip!! I love this type of clothing and I’d never heard of them:)

  34. Meg

    A great way to buy Athleta clothing is on eBay. I am amazed at how many items of Athleta are listed at any given moment.